The depletion of fossil fuels and the negative environmental impacts derived from their use, are forcing the transition to more sustainable chemical production models based on renewable resources. Within this framework, microbial electrosynthesis has been recently postulated by the international scientific community as a promising approach. The principle is as follows: when an electrical current is applied certain bacteria can capture carbon dioxide and convert it into complex organic compounds with high-added value (organic acids or alcohols). Nevertheless, to date only acetic acid has been obtained by this process. Acetic acid has industrial applications, but is not very attractive from the economic standpoint due to its low market price.
LEQUIA research work, which has been published in the scientific journal Chemmical Communications, proves for the first time the bioelectrochemical concomitant production of butyric acid from carbon dioxide. Results are a step forward for the application of bioelectrochemical systems (BES) to the production of organic compounds with high-added value products. Butyric acid (C4H8O2) is an industrial feedstock with many applications in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, and can be converted into fuels through esterification.
Experiments were conducted at laboratory scale with autotrophic bacteria dominated by the species of genus Clostridium. The highest concentration of butyric acid achieved was 20.2 mMC. Additionally, production of ethanol and buthanol was observed, which opens up the potential for biofuel production.
The article, authored by Ramon Ganigué, Sebastià Puig, Pau Batlle, Maria Dolors Balaguer and Jesús Colprim, boosts further research to optimize the efficiency of the process and the reduction of the associated products recovery and fermentation costs.
LEQUIA research group is working on the study and development of bioelectrochemical systems for water treatment and added-valued organic compounds production.
Ganigué, R., Puig, S., Batlle-Vilanova, P., Balaguer, M.D. and Colprim, J. 2015. Microbial electrosynthesis of butyrate from carbon dioxide. Chem. Commun. 51, 3235 – 3238. doi: 10.1039/C4CC10121A.